Norton Rose Fulbright - The Inside View

To Norton Rose Fulbright global-minded folk flock, where they can serve clients “around the world and around the clock.”

Norton Rose Fulbright’s had a bit of a shake-up over the past twelve months. Its new global chief executive, Gerry Pecht, took office and Jeff Cody was elected as the new managing partner of the firm’s US operations. Shauna Clark was appointed as global and US chair, making her the first Black woman to hold either position at the firm. “Being able to support clients around the world and around the clock really appealed to me,” one interviewee told us. Despite its size, NRF’s US junior associate pool isn’t supersized, with intakes of around 50. The New York,DCandLAofficesall housed associates, but the largest group was based in Texas in either Houston, Dallas or Austin.

Texas is a key location for Norton Rose Fulbright, which ties in to the firm’s strong energy practice and accompanying Chambers USA rankings. The firm gets six national shout-outs, with top rankings for renewable energy and LNG work in particular. Chambers Global recognizes NRF as among the best around for mining and oil & gas matters. Other industry focuses for the firm include financial institutions, transport, healthcare, tech and life sciences, and the firm collects more Chambers USA rankings in securities litigation, IP, antitrust, tax, labor, and asset finance.

Strategy & Future



"We’ve learned a lot from the pandemic, which has opened up the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment: keeping people connected when we’re working remotely," US managing partner Jeff Cody explains. "Although remote working is a challenge, it’s also a huge opportunity. People have enjoyed working from home because it enables an improved quality of life, because the time that people used to spend commuting can now be spent with family, which we really encourage." NRF's lawyers might get some more flexibility in where they're working from, but what are the firm's geographical priorities? "We’re focused on the West Coast right now, as well as in Houston, Dallas and New York," Cody tells us. "We’ve got four offices in Texas, so we’ve got a significant presence and investment in the state. California is a focus area for us too." Go online for the full interview.

"Although remote working is a challenge, it’s also a huge opportunity."

The Work



Associates are typically sorted into the same practice group they were in during the summer program. At the time of our research, rookies were split between a whopping 19 different practice areas. Many of them joined commercial litigation; corporate, M&A and securities; projects or finance-related groups.

Work allocation varies by group, but most operate a free-market system, with associates submitting a capacity report each week. Some embraced the “entrepreneurial” spirit and liked being able to choose who they worked with. But it wasn’t without its challenges, as this associate explained: “The unpredictably of workflow is a frustration in my group.” Some pointed out that “even though management tries to push initiatives to improve work allocation, individual partners still do it their own way.” Norton Rose briefly brought in a workflow coordinator to address the issue, but reverted to the original system when the pandemic hit.

“We help energy transactions lawyers to draft and negotiate pretty intricate LNG contracts.”

The corporate, M&A and securities practice covers the full range of corporate matters, including private M&A transactions, takeovers, securitizations, and public finance work. NRF recently merged this group with the energy transactions group, so corporate juniors had been kept pretty busy with a range of energy-related deals. “Getting to work with other groups is a really good thing about the firm,” associates said.They described a fair amount of crossover between the energy transactions, project finance and corporate groups across Houston, Dallas and DC. “We help energy transactions lawyers to draft and negotiate pretty intricate LNG contracts,” a corporate source explained. On the renewables side, corporate lawyers also coordinate specialists, like solar and utility experts. It’s not all about energy, though: “We’ve got a strong representations and warranties practice,” one said. “It’s fun because we represent insurers on those deals, so we get to do lots of M&A in a fast-paced, short-term way.” Sources praised partners for letting them communicate with clients directly, while one lucky associate was able to handle most of a deal closing by themselves.

Corporate clients: Husky Energy, Kirby Corporation, Pharmaceutical Strategies Group. Represented Montage Resources Corporation in its $1.1 billion sale to Southwestern Energy Company.

Disputes-based subgroups include commercial litigation, antitrust and financial institutions. Dispute resolution is also one facet of the firm’s projects offering – building enormous infrastructure can be a contentious business – and this can bleed into the commercial litigation subgroup. This group also works with clients in energy, insurance, healthcare, government, telecommunications, technology and manufacturing. Sources said the group had been involved in a fair few privacy and cybersecurity matters. There’s been an enormous increase in cybersecurity incidents across sectors since the pandemic took hold, so the team has been “buried with incident response lately.” Associates pointed out that “most if not all lawyers who do that work here have the Certified Information Privacy Professional certificate. It confirms you’ve studied data privacy laws, both the legal and technical engineering side.” Given the worldwide nature of the world wide web, the team works with clients as far afield as Asia, Canada and Europe. Typical junior-level work for junior litigators involved “basic but necessary” legal research, though associates reported high levels of partner contact and scored the group highly for opportunities it offered them to develop their legal skills. One associate actually got to liaise with the FBI: “They were very nice actually.”

“Fun insurance disputes.”

Juniors in the financial institutions and insurance groupgot involved with quite a few “fun insurance disputes.” Insiders described two types of work in this group. The first is examining documents, “which is essentially a paralegal task. I definitely don’t enjoy reorganizing files until 10pm, but it has to be done.” The second (and much preferred) type of work was much more hands-on: researching and drafting motions and responses to briefs. Client contact here depends on the value of the case, but in one example, “I was on a case with over a dozen clients and I was in contact with all of them, organizing scheduling and getting statements.”

Litigation clients: Concordia International, Phillips 66, Farmers Group. Defended Vulcan Materials Company against allegations of groundwater contamination in 25 lawsuits brought by water companies and municipalities in New York State.

The projects group largely focuses on the financing of project deals, representing developers, lenders and investors behind energy projects. For juniors there was a lot of due diligence to be done. “We work with partners to determine potential issues,” one explained. Juniors are also responsible for deal management, which involves coordinating documents, maintaining checklists and drafting finance agreements and securities documents. “There are lots more drafting opportunities in second year,” we heard. “Usually it’s the supporting documents, but I’ve drafted core ones too.” Associates were pleased to be a part of “everything you could be a part of! It’s not all glamorous but we do everything from drafting to creating signature pages.”

Projects clients: Cheniere Energy Partners, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Lightsource BP. Represented Truscott Gilliland East as sponsors in the $450 million financing and hedging arrangements for a wind energy project in Texas.

Diversity & Inclusion



Interviewees praised NRF’s response to the BLM protests in 2020: "They took a hard look at themselves and it was like an awareness happened here.” The firm met with Black attorneys and hosted several panel discussions “to understand what their lives are like.” The firm also established a diversity action committee and a sponsorship program. The former was set up "to address the imbalance in the racial makeup of the firm and make sure there’s a pipeline of work to ‘diverse’ associates.” The mentorship program matches Black associates with partners "to make sure they’re getting the same opportunities” as everybody else.

In 2020 Norton Rose earned Mansfield Certification Plus status, meaning that at least 30% of firm leadership and committee roles are held by attorneys with minority backgrounds.It wasn’t lost on associates, who told us “there’s a lot of representative diversity in leadership.” They highlighted the US management committee as an example: “Two of the three people on it are women; one is Asian and one is Hispanic.”

Interviewees thought the firm could be more proactive in addressing mental health and wellbeing. There are currently “a bunch of offerings” on the firm’s intranet with mindfulness and workout tips. “And partners understand the importance of work/life balance,” associates reassured us.

The Post-Carbon Economy with Norton Rose Fulbright: a long read from our UK publication

Hours, Compensation & Career Development



  • Billable hours: 1,800 or 1,900 target depending on office

Bonuses are based on billable hours and vary by location, but the firm expects associates to also do non-chargeable tasks including pro bono, recruiting, mentoring and diversity initiatives. Like hours targets, associate salaries vary between offices. Although associates took a 15% pay cut between April and September 2020, it was paid back in its entirety.

“We’re in a service industry so all of a sudden it’ll be go-go-go.”

Most interviewees found the billing target achievable, acknowledging that “we’re in a service industry so all of a sudden it’ll be go-go-go and you have to drop your plans.” Inconsistent hours are part and parcel of the job, according to this interviewee: “One day I’ll bill 11 hours and the next I’ll bill five.” The good news is “no one spins your wheels about doing eight hours a day if there’s no work.” One associate observed that “everyone works hard, but even the hardest-working people take the weekend off.” That doesn’t mean there isn’t weekend work on occasion of course. Although “the hours aren’t amazing at any BigLaw firm, the people here make me want to stay as long as possible.” Several sources thought partnership was achievable for attorneys with children, pointing out that the firm offers 18 weeks of primary caregiver leave. As is the case at most BigLaw firms, "secondary caregiver leave isn’t as revered," with the firm offering 20 days that can be spread across an 18-week period.

Culture



Associates approved of how the firm managed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They gave practice coordinators laptops so they could work from home,” insiders said, “And we had monthly catchups with our managing partner, so there was a good sense of communication.” In this regard, “our open-door policy has continued as an open-phone policy.” Those who joined the firm during the pandemic “never felt unsupported. We spent two days on Zoom going through everything. The IT manager even drove to my apartment to drop off my computer!”

Unsurprisingly, there were little variations between cultures depending on geography and practice area, but several sources commented that “there isn’t any pressure to have lots of facetime and nobody peers over your shoulder.” Associates in some groups described a “get your work done and go home” vibe, but there were also weekly virtual happy hours to be found. One happy hour attendee told us “it’s actually been more frequent and well attended now we’re working remotely.”

Pro Bono



We heard there’s a bigger push to do pro bono in DC and New York, while over in some other offices “it’s in your wheelhouse whether or not you do it and no one barks up your tree if you don’t.” Norton Rose commits to a certain number of projects with the Houston Volunteer Lawyers organization each year. Adverse possession cases and updating wills are also common in this office. The firm has also partnered with the NAACP in Louisiana, working on cases concerning police forces who have allegedly violated civil rights.

“It’s difficult when you have a deal closing but you know someone might be deported. You just have to do both.”

The firm's pro bono chair is based in Austin; New York is home to a dedicated pro bono counsel, who assists associates with asylum cases. One source talked about the challenges of balancing such cases with their client-billable work: “It’s difficult when you have a deal closing but you know someone might be deported. You just have to do both,” they concluded. “People’s lives are more important and someone else can jump on a deal if worst comes to worst.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 25,474
  • Average per (US) attorney: 50

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 721

Number of interviews outside OCI and callbacks: 147

Norton Rose Fulbright conducts OCIs and attends job fairs at over 40 law schools, and takes part in around 15 résumé collection programs. Its recruitment efforts are broad, encompassing national and regional law schools, but the firm often focuses on schools which it’s had success with. “We also actively recruit judicial clerks, both those who have worked with us during the summer and former clerks looking to enter or return to private practice,” explains US hiring partner, Judi Archer. 

Throughout the year, Norton Rose sponsors and participates in over 100 events with law schools and affinity groups to maintain ties with students throughout the 1L year and beyond: “We place a high value on building meaningful relationships with the students.” 

When it comes to OCIs, “We carefully select our campus interviewers to reflect the diversity across our offices, practice teams, lawyers and experience levels,” says Archer. “In many instances, we have law school alumni interviewing on campus. Students can expect to interface with representatives from our firm ranging from first-year lawyers to members of our management committee.”

Interviewers are likely to keep the conversation fairly ‘organic,’ but candidates can expect to be asked questions that will give the firm an understanding of their interest in Norton Rose specifically, and of which practice areas the candidate has in mind. “The practice of law is challenging and exciting, but it is also hard work!” says Archer. “We seek candidates who demonstrate a commitment to excel, achieve success throughout their academic careers, exhibit entrepreneurial traits and demonstrate leadership abilities.”

Top tips for this stage: 

“While academic excellence – such as grades and class ranking – is one factor for getting hired, it is not the only one. Candidates should be able to articulate their experience, including how it ties into the practice of law and the development of business, show that they’ve done their research on the firm and understand our practices and the legal industry.  In addition, we are interested in hearing about candidates’ different life experiences and their path to the practice of law. We are not a one-size-fits-all firm.” – Judi Archer, US hiring partner 

Callbacks

Number of applicants invited to callbacks: 227

Typically, the firm hosts Callback Days in some of its offices (during the pandemic, this process was conducted remotely). Groups of candidates will be given a presentation about the firm, before going on to do one-to-one interviews with a panel of five lawyers. The questions are focussed on eliciting responses which help the interviewers decide if a candidate aligns with the core competencies of associates at the firm. Norton Rose also looks to learn more about the individual candidate and their passions outside law. Well-rounded students are the winners here.

Some offices host post-interview dinners with junior associates: “We encourage candidates to let us know if they have questions that might be best addressed by particular lawyers that may share their experiences, such as parents, women, lawyers of color, LGBT lawyers, new lawyers, etc,” says Archer.

Top tips for this stage: “Candidates should have a general idea of what type of law the interviewer practices and do some research about the firm. Law firms do not expect their candidates to possess encyclopedic knowledge about the firm to demonstrate an interest. Candidates should take notes during OCI/job fair of what interests them about the firm during the initial meeting and reference those points during the callback interview. We are eager to hear how from students about their experiences and how they have shaped their development and will make them an important addition to our firm, as well as how their inclusion in the firm will benefit us and our clients.” -  Judi Archer, US hiring partner 

Summer program 

Offers: 52 

Acceptances:  48

Archer tells us: “Our goal is to quickly integrate our summer associates into the firm by pairing them with mentors, offering training opportunities and giving them substantive work,” alongside introducing them to the social aspects of firm life throughout the program.  

Norton Rose makes an effort to interview summers about the type of law they’re interested in so they can gain experience in those areas. Designated coordinators are on hand to make sure summers get out of the office at least once a week to attend client meetings, depositions, trials and hearings.  

The 2020 program was, of course, virtual. The 90 summers were involved in an array of firm-education activities, like local and nationwide D&I initiatives, legal skills seminars, professional development training and socials: “We hosted virtual firm alumni client panels throughout the summer, which not only provided valuable insight into the industries and companies we represent and support but also highlighted the strength of the firm’s alumni network,” says Archer. A high percentage of summers return to the firm as first-year associates.

Top tips for this stage: The summer associate program is a lengthy job interview which starts before candidates participate in OCI. Candidates are deciding if our firm is the best fit for them while, at the same time, we are evaluating summer associates to determine if they will fit and succeed at the firm: we expect our summer associates to produce exceptional work, demonstrate a can-do attitude and work ethic, show a true desire to practice law and succeed in doing so. And they need to get to know us. We do not expect our summer associates to show up with substantive knowledge of how to practice law. We show summer associates what it is truly like to be a lawyer at our firm so they can make a fully-informed decision about their future.” - Judi Archer, US hiring partner

Final words of wisdom from Judi Archer: “Help us to see your talent, enthusiasm and dedication to the practice of law, our clients and our firm. We want bright and engaging candidates who are academically successful with a strong work ethic who will be good contributors and team players.”

A note on lateral hiring at Norton Rose:“We expect to continue to hire in areas where we see potential areas of growth. We expect to continue growing our disputes, business and intellectual property practices as our client needs expand,” explains Archer. The firm’s lateral hiring needs are driven by client demands and business need: in 2020, eleven attorneys joined the firm as lateral associates.

Interview with US managing partner Jeff Cody



Chambers Associate: What has the firm done to mitigate any disruption to the firm’s operation during the pandemic?

Jeff Cody: We’ve learned a lot from the pandemic, which has opened up the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment: keeping people connected when we’re working remotely. So much of what being a lawyer is about involves being connected. The biggest focus for 2021 for us is training partners on how to do things differently: we need to train partners so that they’re more intentional about including associates in meetings and reaching out to them to make sure the associates are part of the practice and learn how to practice.

CA: What developments and opportunities have been presented by the effects of Covid-19?

Although remote working is a challenge, it’s also a huge opportunity. People have enjoyed working from home because it enables an improved quality of life, because the time that people used to spend commuting can now be spent with family which we really encourage.

To keep connected and maintain our culture, we have formal programing with events for associates and business services professionals, plus small happy hours with four or five people in each session. We take great pride in the collegiality of our firm, and we’re learning together. We’ve been introduced to new technology, too: we’ve introduced Microsoft Teams, which has increased our ability to work remotely in a collaborative way.

CA: Does the firm have any set targets with regards to diversity and inclusion?

As you might imagine with the US, the events surrounding George Floyd’s killing caused us to stop and think about where we were at with racial equity. We created a number of initiatives to address social and racial justice and make sure that we’re contributing to our communities as a firm. We formed a racial equity counsel, which is made up of Black lawyers and business services professionals who were tasked with developing a strategy to improve how we interact with our Black colleagues within 30 days. Now, we have a Black attorney sponsorship program where we matched up every Black non-partner with a sponsor who makes sure the attorney is successful in every aspect of their career, from getting the right amount of work to getting exposure to the right colleagues. We need to invest in our people to make sure they’re not getting pushed aside by implicit bias, and these efforts have had a really positive impact on the firm.

CA: Does the firm plan to grow any practice areas?

Our growth strategy is measured and sustainable, which has reinforced our plans to look for really high-level practitioners in various cities. We’re focused on the West Coast right now, as well as in Houston, Dallas and New York. We’ve got four offices in Texas, so we’ve got a significant presence and investment in the state. California is a focus area for us too. We’ve got offices in LA and San Francisco, which gives us the opportunity to step into the global firm by accessing the Pacific and Australian markets. Practice area-wise, we’re looking for business, IP and disputes lawyers. We have placed a priority on innovation and are looking for lawyers who share that passion.

CA: What challenges are facing those who will become associates in the next five years?

If I were a new associate joining a new firm, I would be most focused on how I’m going to get training and experience. The single biggest challenge is matching up the strong desire of associates to work remotely whilst being able to train folks so that they become seasoned practitioners two to five years down the road.

CA: Is there anything you’d like readers to know?

Our firm is committed to being a culture-first firm. Building a sense of trust in the firm is important to us. I believe you build trust through transparency and enabling people to self-verify what’s going on in the firm – we are lawyers after all! We started monthly meetings in March with everyone in the firm where we give financial updates, talk about what we’re planning and, in general, make sure everyone understands where we are as a firm and where we are going. Making sure our folks trust us and are confident in us is the bedrock of this firm.

Norton Rose Fulbright

1301 McKinney,
Suite 5100,
Houston,
77010-3095

  • Head Office: N/A
  • Number of domestic offices: 11
  • Number of international offices: 41
  • Worldwide revenue: $1,877,933, 000
  • Partners (US): 301
  • Associates (US): 249
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contact: Jaimee Slovak (jaimee.slovak@nortonrosefulbright.com)
  • Hiring partner: Judi Archer
  • Diversity officer: Katherine Tapley
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 53
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 69
  • 3L-1; 2L-49; 1L-19
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office:
  • Austin (4); Dallas (14); Houston (24) ; LA (2); NY (12); San Antonio(4); St. Louis(1); DC (8)
  • Summer salary 2021:
  • 1Ls: $3,654/wk (CA, DC, NY, TX)
  • 2Ls: $3,654/wk (CA, DC, NY, TX)
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work



 Antitrust and competition; banking and finance; corporate, M&A and securities; dispute resolution and litigation; employment and labor; financial restructuring and insolvency; intellectual property; real estate; regulations and investigations; risk advisory; and tax.

Firm profile



 Norton Rose Fulbright provides the world’s preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. It has more than 3700 lawyers and other legal staff based in Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East.

Recognized for its industry focus, Norton Rose Fulbright is strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare. Through its global risk advisory group, Norton Rose Fulbright leverages its industry experience with its knowledge of legal, regulatory, compliance and governance issues to provide clients with practical solutions to the legal and regulatory risks facing their businesses.

Recruitment



Law schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
Baylor, Cardozo, Columbia, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hofstra, Howard, Loyola (CA), NYU, Penn, South Texas College of Law, SMU, Texas Southern, Texas Tech, UC-Irvine, UCLA, University of Chicago, University of Southern California, University of Texas, University of Virginia, Washington University, Yale

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Cornell (DC and NY job fairs), Emory Job Fair, Lavender Law, Loyola Patent Law, National Law School Consortium, NEBLSA Job fair, Notre Dame Interview Program, Penn Regional Job Fairs, SEMJF, Sunbelt, Vanderbilt Career Fairs, Washington University Walkaround Programs.

Summer associate profile:

We recruit motivated, energetic and personable individuals with whom we will enjoy practicing law. Candidates should have high academic achievement, maturity, and initiative. We also value other indicators of likely success at Norton Rose Fulbright, such as demonstrated leadership skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.

Summer program components:
Your summer experience will provide you with a realistic preview of what it is like to practice at Norton Rose Fulbright. You will do real work for real clients.

We offer sophisticated work, world-class learning and development and our lawyers are committed to teaching and mentoring. Our US Summer Associates are invited to participate in the Summer Associate Academy, a two day induction into the firm.

Social media



Recruitment website: joinus.nortonrosefulbright.com
Linkedin: nortonrosefulbright

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Environment (Band 5)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Insurance (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 2)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
    • Healthcare: The Elite (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Oil & Gas Litigation (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Projects: LNG (Band 1)
    • Projects: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Projects: Power (Band 3)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Projects: PPP (Band 2)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
    • Retail (Band 3)
    • Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Finance (Band 2)